Md. employers add 5,600 jobs, but unemployment inches up

December 17, 2005|By JAMIE SMITH HOPKINS | JAMIE SMITH HOPKINS,SUN REPORTER

Maryland employers added 5,600 jobs last month, a relatively strong performance, but the state's jobless rate inched up to 4.2 percent anyway, the U.S. Labor Department announced yesterday.

Unemployment was 4.1 percent in October. By comparison, the nation's rate was 5 percent both months. The numbers are adjusted for seasonal variations.

The state has added 48,900 jobs since November last year, a downshifting since the heady months of early summer, when the annual rate was flirting with 60,000 jobs. But the employment picture this year remains better overall than at any time since February 2001, right before the national recession.

"Everything's faring well," said John Hopkins, associate director for applied economics at RESI, Towson University's research and consulting arm. "We expect this momentum to continue - and this comes at a time when there are macroeconomic pressures on the national economy, the high prices and supply shocks from the hurricanes. ... Maryland's economy seems to be holding its own very well, and that's a reflection of the quality of jobs."

The monthly news isn't entirely rosy, though economists put more weight on annual numbers because statistical blips are more likely month to month. The civilian labor force - the number of people working or looking for work - actually declined by 9,300 last month even as unemployment increased by 3,000.

Those numbers don't always match up with job creation numbers because they're culled from separate surveys.

Another reason they sometimes move in opposite directions is that out-of-state workers can fill jobs here and in-state workers can take out-of-state jobs.

Hopkins said businesses are reporting worker shortages, so he doesn't believe November's labor force numbers are worrisome. Job growth would be even stronger, he suspects, if some employers - particularly in construction - weren't having a hard time filling empty positions. Construction added 1,000 jobs in the past 12 months.

The professional and business services sector has added the most jobs over the same period, up 11,500. Manufacturing was as usual the only loser in the past year, down 4,300 jobs.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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